Walmart Adopts Tobacco 21 Purchase Age

The retail giant also will stop selling certain flavored e-cigarettes as of July 1.

May 09, 2019

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart has announced it will raise the minimum age to 21 to purchase tobacco products across all U.S. stores starting July 1, Reuters reports. The retail giant’s move follows those of drugstore chains Walgreens and Rite Aid in recent weeks to stop selling tobacco products to customers younger than age 21.
In a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the world’s largest retailer said it also will discontinue the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic cigarettes as part of efforts to battle increased vaping among teens.
In March, the FDA put 15 national retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Family Dollar Stores, on notice for allegedly selling tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, to underage consumers. While studies show that e-cigarettes have the potential to shift lifelong smokers onto less harmful nicotine products, many health professionals fear that they could draw a new generation into nicotine addiction.
Walmart said the FDA has conducted approximately 12,800 compliance checks involving minors at Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations nationwide since 2010. During that period, Walmart stores passed 93% and Sam’s Club cleared 99% of those checks. Last year, Walmart stores cleared 94% of the 2,400 FDA checks and Sam’s Club passed 100% of its 15 checks, Reuters reports.
“While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our companywide goal of 100% compliance,” John Scudder, U.S. chief ethics and compliance officer for Walmart, said in the letter. “Even a single sale to a minor is one too many.”
The letter also assured the FDA that Walmart would remain focused on improving its compliance rates, and any sale-to-minor violation would be dealt with promptly. The company will continue to use internal and external data, including FDA data, to implement alerts, controls, training and monitoring to reduce the risk of an underage sale. This year, the company plans to conduct 8,000 secret-shopper visits, and any worker who fails a secret-shop will be required to complete a “corrective action plan.”